Standing On Guard For Thee

On Wednesday, a terrorist killed a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and then walked into Canada’s Houses of Parliament. He engaged in a shooting battle with security guards and was killed while standing only one door away from federal politicians.

Kevin Vickers is the person responsible for order in the House of Commons. He wears ceremonial robes and carries a large golden sceptre into the Commons as proceedings begin.  Many people see his role as a symbol of the past, as an example of unnecessary ritual.  Kevin shot and killed the intruder.

What should a good person do when faced with evil?  What would I have done?  “Thou shalt not kill.”  “Do not harm any living being.”  The calls of Christianity and Buddhism are clear.  And yet …

Kevin is a good man.  As his niece Erin expresses it, “He’s a thoughtful and considerate person.  He’s halfway to a saint in my opinion.  He’s a very capable human being.”  Clearly.  And he had never shot anyone before Wednesday.

I like to think that I would have shot that man as well.  That, in order to save the lives of others, I would have been willing to live the rest of my life knowing that I had killed.  And willing to grapple with the daily emotional pain.

I see sporadically that I’m on the planet not to become a better person, not to accumulate experiences, not to be smart and witty and rich.  I am here to serve and love.

Just So

Yesterday morning, I had just assisted Jody with personal care and had moved to our bedroom to give her some privacy.  I sat in a rotating chair and looked at my bureau.  The bottom drawer wasn’t closed  completely.  About an inch of the top surface of the drawer was showing.

I was torn.  The part of me that wants everything in its place started contracting.  A less developed section of Bruceness didn’t really care.  But I could feel the tug of the words “totally” rather than “partially”, and of “flush” rather than “offset”.  My goodness, what’s the big deal?  Aren’t there more crucial life issues that need to be addressed?  Well … yes, but something was pulling me in to its domain.  I sure wanted to close that drawer!

Larger principles beckon me, ones that present themselves symbolically to me in the objects of daily living.  Doing a job completely, for instance, before moving on.

Then there’s horizontal and vertical.  In our hallway, Jody and I have put together a collection of small framed photographs on a wall.  One montage of our vacations sits right next to a light switch, and sometimes it gets jostled.  So the others are all at right angles but holiday pics are leaning just a bit, far less than that tower in Italy.  Still though, it’s not right, says a certain version of my mind.  Down deep somewhere is the appreciation of the vertical as representing an upright life, and the horizontal as seeing all beings as equally wondrous in God’s eyes.

Dish towels need to hang loosely from the oven door handle, falling uncreased towards the mystery below.  Being bunched and jumbled somehow interrupts the grace of the infinite.  Toilet paper falls down over the front of the roll, revealing transparency, rather than descending from behind, and thus keeping hidden and unacceptable some part of its being.

“Bruce, you’re nuts.  Make sure nobody ever finds out about your questionable analogies, and the fetishes that unfold from each.”


It’s time for another great life experiment.  Let the tea towels bunch.  Let the montage lean a mite.  Let that bottom drawer show all the glory of its top edge.  Don’t fix things.  Everything’s perfect as it is.  Next week, I can always return to the appropriateness of feng shui principles.  And then return to mild disorder the week after that.

After all, as Walt Whitman said, “I am inconsistent.  I contain multitudes.”